Jake Peetz's uncommon journey to become LSU's offensive coordinator turned toward a new beginning on Monday when he met with Tigers players as they returned to campus for offseason training.
The 37-year-old Peetz arrived in Baton Rouge after 11 seasons of coaching — seven as an assistant in the NFL, four as a staffer in the NCAA — and he most recently was the Carolina Panther's quarterbacks coach under former LSU passing game coordinator Joe Brady.
Peetz spoke publicly for the first time on Wednesday during a joint news conference with LSU coach Ed Orgeron and new passing game coordinator DJ Mangas, who was an offensive assistant with Peetz at Carolina last year.
See the full transcript of Peetz's introductory interview below:
“First of all, I just want to say my family and my wife, Maggie, and I, are very excited to move our six kids down here to Baton Rouge. We’re very grateful to Coach Orgeron for the opportunity, for believing in us. And by us I mean DJ and myself. I know you’re gonna talk to him here soon. But DJ is somebody that I had the privilege of working with, with Joe in Carolina. Somebody I believe in and I think greatly contributes to the strength of our staff here. And that something… We’re a we-not-me group over here. Like we have great strength in our staff. Coach Orgeron talked about Coach Robinson. It was fun being in our first offensive staff meeting yesterday and looking over there and seeing a legend of a coach over there. Coach Ensminger and I have spent time here. He came up to the office yesterday and he’s a guy that Joe Brady talked about being the great humble leader. That’s something about this, right? Leadership is an extreme sport that requires courage and humility, and that’s something that I think he embodies. I know Coach Orgeron does. Joe Brady does. Those are great people, in addition to many others, that have helped me get to where I’m at right now. But I think that those are great examples of people that we want to emulate and that we want our players therefore to emulate and when we do those type of things, we’re going to put in an exciting brand of football and have an exciting brand of men out there in the world, not just playing football. Again, my family and I are very excited, very proud to be a part of this great organization and I look forward to hearing what you guys want to ask.”
Coach O had talked about wanting to go back to the 2019 offense. When you watch film, or from what you know, what jumps out to you about how you would describe that philosophy?
“Well, it’s something that I greatly believe in. I believe in that passing game. Joe Brady really helped me learn that at a different level. It’s similar in some ways to what we ran in Washington when I was with Sean McVay, some similar concepts. What you see is, you see great confidence in those players. They had great preparation. Preparation is what leads to confidence, and I think when you have that, when you have guys that have been in the grass roots of that system, you’re able to teach the players to an elite level, and then you let their talent take over. It’s something that we’ve got to demand from them every day, starting with the first opportunity we get with them to the very last one. We’ve got to be extremely demanding with these young men, and we can only do that if we’re demanding of ourselves as a staff. And we have a great staff from top down. And that’s one of the first things I did was I reached out to each position coach, each analyst, each GA. These guys are extremely important in this. And for DJ and I, we want to learn from them and try to teach them the way that we’ve been taught so that we have great strength and power in this staff. So that we sharpen each other, we pass ideas along to each other, we challenge each other so that when we get to our players, we have a very defined product, we have defined roles, defined responsibilities so that they can play with great confidence because of the preparation that goes into it.”
Most of us have a basic understanding of the spread concept. There’s certainly different flavors to it. How would you describe what you guys favor, would like to try and implement? Some things that we’ve seen with the Saints and their offensive attack versus what we see in the SEC with the need for a balanced running game. How do you marry those two?
“What I want to see is our players in the best position to make plays. What are they great at? And that’s something we’ve been spending a lot of time with, with our staff: what schemes fit our players? What’s the best way for us to run the ball? What’s the best way for attack? Because that’s what we want to do. We want to aggressively attack the defense at all fronts, and we want to play the game the way we want to play the game. But we need to know ourselves first. We’ve got to understand what our players do great and what they don’t do. And we obviously want to play to their strengths. What we’re doing in this system—the spread system—is we want to define what things our players do at a very high level, and we want to amplify that. We want to adjust it, keep changing it, so people can’t set their watch to what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. And we want to involve everybody. And like a question got asked to Coach Orgeron about the running backs. So I’ll just go ahead and talk about that in case you guys want to know: If our best personnel grouping has multiple backs on the field, let’s do it. We have great playmakers here. And that’s our job as coaches, and that’s my responsibility as the offensive coordinator to make sure that those young men are prepared and that they’re on the field to attack the defense. And whatever that looks like. Something that we did in Carolina with Joe, we went 5 wides. We’ve had two backs on the field, no tight ends. We can run multiple tight end sets. We want this to be an exciting place for our players first. Those are the most important people to the organization, the people we have here; but then also as we recruit the best players in the country to know that you come here that we will find a way to get you on the field, we’ll prepare you, get you on the field to play with confidence and attack. Whoever we’ve got, the best players we’ve got, you’re going to see them on the field.”
You’ve been around several first-time play-callers in your career. What lessons have you learned from that going into this?
“I’ll tell you what, you learn that it’s not even so much about the X’s and O’s at the beginning. It really isn’t. The first two days here—we’re bleeding into the third day DJ and I have been here—it’s been all about getting to know our players, because without trust there is no relationship. We can’t ask these guys to go do these things. We can’t be demanding of them in a positive way and really challenge them unless they feel that we believe in them. It’s not just studying the film—that’s part of it—but getting face-to-face with these guys, not even talking football. Like that’s not even the concern right now. These guys can play football. They’re here, right? So it’s about learning these people. It’s about them learning me, learning DJ. My wife, Maggie, none of this is possible without her, and I have six wonderful kids that I can’t wait to see this weekend. But I want them to know about my family. They can’t be family if they don’t feel comfortable coming over to my house. Or if I’m not bringing my family around them. Because when we build that, then we’re going to be able to get into football. Then we have trust. Then we have belief. And then we can really magnify what these guys do. And I think that’s what you saw, again, in the 2019 season. Is that there was great commitment, trust and belief. Obviously, this last year, there were a lot of challenges. There were challenges in Carolina for us this year. And it was an exceptional example to see how Joe Brady ran an offense in a pandemic. How Matt Rhule, as a head coach, did an elite job organizing his people. I was on the phone with him last night thanking him. Just the way that he led, that Joe led, really helped prepare me for this situation. And the other people. I’ve worked with Sean McVay as a first-time play-caller. Seeing how Sean handled the situation. Seeing how it is about getting your staff organized, learning your players and then delving in what they do well. And then Todd Downing in Oakland. I thought there was some things he really did good from an organizational standpoint that I’m emulating here. Scott Turner is the other one. And a great influence on me—you talk about first-time play-callers—but then Norm Chow, Norv Turner, Jay Gruden, some of the elite play-callers in the game, and that’s why I feel very blessed to be in the position I’m in. Mike Locksley at Alabama was an elite play-caller. Being around these people has allowed me to achieve to the level, and I’m excited about the opportunity and showing what these people invested in me was very well invested.”
You talk about scheme and all the things you’ve learned over these years. Once it gets into the game, with in-game adjustments, strategy there, how do you approach that. Do you consider that a strength? How do you organize that with the staff while you’re up there in the booth?
“That’s where you rely on the strength of the staff and Coach Orgeron as well. We’ve been through a lot of things situationally. All of us have been in different places and learned from different people, and that’s where we can communicate. Communication is the critical element of everything, right? So as we communicate with each other, we prepare ourselves. Coach Orgeron—when I interviewed up here—there’s a part of our organization where we spend time preparing, studying, communicating these special situations. That’s something I do feel like we can draw an edge from. Again, when it’s all about ‘we’ not ‘me,’ we draw on everybody’s expertise, which is going to allow us to achieve in those situations, because we’ll be able to prepare ourselves and our players for when those things happen.”
What have you learned about the quarterbacks in the last few days, and, although you haven’t been able to practice with them, how would you evaluate them as players right now?
“I’ll tell you what, we have some exceptional young men, and getting a chance to talk with these guys and getting a chance to talk with most of their parents at this point as well, you can see that it’s by no accident. These are really good young men that are obviously very talented, but they’re good young men that I’m excited to work with and help grow them not only as players but as people. And we have great skill sets in there. I wouldn’t say any of them are the same, which is good, right? That’s a good thing when we can draw different things, we can attack defenses in a different way. But it’s been a pleasure to get to know these guys, and I look forward to continuing to grow that.”
You spent some time with Joe Brady last year. What was one thing that maybe you learned from him above all else that’s kind of helped you in your first year here. Also, what’s your first impressions of some of these players. It’s very early, but what kind of guys do you think you have on this team?
“Joe Brady—and DJ spent a lot more time with him, right? They played college football together, and they’ve grown up together. For me, Joe Brady, I’ve spent more time with him than any human being including my wife this last year. He’s a guy that I love not only as a football coach, but even more as a friend. This is a guy that means a lot to me personally as well as professionally. I wouldn’t be here without him, and he invested a lot in me this last year. And I tried to learn from every opportunity I got from him, and then add, and, hopefully, he felt like he grew from his experiences with me as well. What Joe has, he has such grace with how he delivers his thoughts. I’m assuming most of you guys were around for the ’19 season and got a chance to speak with him. But he’s elite with intelligence. But the way that he communicates. And not just with me—I was his quarterbacks coach—but with the players, and he helped me to make some things a little more simple. We helped shape each other’s thoughts. But there were times where I thought he helped me take it from advanced math to maybe Algebra 1, which, in learning these systems, it’s not about what I know. It’s about what these guys know. It’s not about what we know, it’s what they can learn and retain and play fast with. You asked about our team. What I’m seeing is great excitement from these guys. Like Coach O brought up, we have this offensive line back. And this is big. We talked about the roster a lot when I came up here last week. We have competitive kids. We have guys that are hungry. You don’t come to LSU unless you want to compete. We have skill positions that can stretch the field. We have running backs that can run the ball and catch the ball out of the backfield and stretch it, and we have guys that just want to compete. That’s the thing that’s been over and over meeting with these guys: they want an opportunity to compete and they want to get better.”
You have some really contrasting styles in the quarterback room. You have a couple of guys who are primarily pocket passers. Then you have Max who’s a little more of a run-pass guy. How will you reconcile that in how you get the offense prepared, because you’ve got two different quarterback styles in that room?
“I appreciate that assessment, and I think you’re right in some of that. I do feel like all these guys can play in any style of offense that we want them to play in. Like Max is a guy, you’re right, he can move and has some mobility to him. But if you look at his calmness and his footwork in the pocket, this guy can play pro-style football. Like this guy can play in the pocket. He can sling it. We can do some different things, moving it. And I would say the same thing for (Myles) Brennan. He can move the pocket. He has very good balance. He’s a guy that can sling it well. Really like his lower-half. And then you have TJ. TJ is a big man, now. Like we were talking earlier today. Seeing him the first time reminded me a lot of when I first came to Carolina and seeing Cam Newton. I mean, these are big men. He is extremely talented. He’s a guy that can flick the wrist and the ball blow off of it. He’s a guy that you may not categorize him as a guy that can run and escape the pocket, but there are great examples on film where he’s able to move up and over. And the thing about TJ is when he escapes, he can attack you at every level of the field. He’s like Steph Curry hitting threes from the parking lot with where he can reach you with his arm. Then you have Garrett Nussmeier. Garrett tore up 6A football in the state of Texas. He’s a guy that is extremely competitive, just like all these guys are extremely competitive. But he’s a guy that I’m excited to see how he can move out of the pocket, in the pocket. All these kids, there’s not a limiting factor to their games saying, well we can’t play this style of football. But whoever the quarterback is, and whenever it is that they play, we’re going to play to their strengths.”
You spent most of your career in the pros. What about this job made you want to make the move to college football?
“That’s a great question. This is not something that… I had a couple of my close friends, they hit me up and said, ‘Is this true?’ I did. Most of my career has been in the NFL. I spent a couple years at Alabama. I was a year at UCLA. I was at Santa Barbara City College. But here’s the thing: It’s LSU. You look at the players that you get to work with here. Most of these guys—well, all of these guys that are walking into my office and introduced themselves—they all look they’re in the NFL. They look like the same guys I was with in Carolina or anywhere else. But the thing that really drew me here. You know, Joe talked to me about it, and his great experience that he had here, and that the people that are here. It was a difficult decision. I loved working for Matt Rhule. Mr. David Tepper is an outstanding owner with the Carolina Panthers. I loved working for Joe Brady there. My wife and kids, we love it in Charlotte. We would not have left if it wasn’t a unique opportunity here. Coach Orgeron coached one of my wife’s brothers, actually, at Ole Miss. And so when it first got brought up a week ago—my day’s are running together—but when I brought it up to my wife. We’re a team. My wife, I’ll tell you what, when you’re raising six kids it’s the most competitive team sport there is, and if you guys can manufacture a situation that’s more hairy than bath time with six kids, I think we’ll be able to handle fourth and goal. But if she didn’t sign off on it, I wouldn’t take any job. For her, her brother George—who’s the special teams coordinator at Maryland for Mike Locksley, who I worked with at Alabama—he loves Coach O. He always spoke about Coach O. My wife has loved her experiences with Coach O. When I came up here, I felt that. I know that this is a special place. And like I talked about the power of the staff, we have great position coaches, we have great analysts. Any of these guys could be up for any of these jobs, you know what I’m saying? And that’s part of my job is to help develop these people as men and coaches as well, and we’ll develop each other. But had it not been such a special place like LSU with Coach Orgeron and all those people I talked about as well as having great players, this wouldn’t have been something I would’ve entertained, but we’re very excited to be coming down here, and my family will be down here as soon as we can possibly get them here.”